San Diego is the epitome of the eternal summer. A place where the famous SoCal sun is always out, but cooling ocean breezes temper it into the perfect climate. But as a wise wanderer, you need more than great weather to entice you to a place. San Diego more than amply delivers. It's a city where luxury hotels in San Diego atop skyscrapers complement the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a culturally and historically rich treasure, while oceanfront resorts offer you a beautiful room just steps from the water. In San Diego, flip flops and shorts can be your uniform of choice, and an afternoon's pursuits will involve nothing more strenuous than touring craft breweries. Yet, if you desire, the finest seafood restaurants and sunset vistas also invite you to dress up and enter into a distinctly informal type of elegance you'll only find in California. With such a convivial atmosphere, you'll know that your days will be spent outdoors, your horizon painted with the blues of the bay, and your entire being immersed in the sounds, scents, and smiles of summer. You will face one challenge, though: deciding where to stay in San Diego because they're all great options.
Things to Do on Land
Start your adventures at Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre open space filled with museums and gardens. With so many downtown San Diego hotels, you'll find that some of the best places to stay in San Diego are conveniently close to this urban-meets-nature treasure. Among dozens of other attractions, the park is home to the San Diego Zoo, the pride of the city for its pioneering animal exhibits that enthrall adults every bit as much as youngsters. You might generally skip a city's zoo in favor of more culturally compelling attractions, but this one is well worth fitting in to your itinerary. After a morning spent gawking at the vintage automobiles at the San Diego Automotive Museum, head to the harbor to hang out in the brig of the aircraft carrier-turned-museum USS Midway or the deck of the oldest active ship, the Star of India. Other great things to do in San Diego include venturing back in time at Old Town, a historic park encompassing a number of buildings constructed in the 1800s. The Whaley House there will get you acquainted with the area's early days and maybe some local spirits on a ghost tour. Not interested in hanging out with the dearly departed? Head a little farther north to La Jolla Cove to hear the sea lions bark and watch the sunset deliver its nightly curtain call from the sandstone cliffs or San Diego hotels.
Things to Do on the Water
Around San Diego, you'll almost certainly be enticed to get out onto, or into, the calm waters of one of the bays. It's as though the protected lagoon of Mission Bay was designed for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or splashing around in the shallows. And in San Diego you can enjoy such recreational pleasures year-round with San Diego hotels in close proximity to it all. Experience the thrill of cruising through San Diego Bay on a state-of-the-art yacht, or enter into the evening in style with a sunset cruise. Go beyond what the beach hotels in San Diego offer and ride out into the vast Pacific in search of whales crashing and breaching as they make their way otherwise silently along the coast. The gray whales make their migration from June to September, when you could be lucky enough to behold a blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. In your many years of traveling you've beheld some incredible natural wonders, and seeing the immense hump of a blue whale's back emerging above the surface of the ocean, knowing it represents but a fraction of the behemoth's bulk, will rank among the most unforgettable of them all.
Eating and Drinking
You can’t visit San Diego and not try one of its famous California burritos. It turns out you can add french fries or carne asada to just about anything. Taste the SoCal twist on Mexican cuisine in local buttery avocados, the cooling freshness of pico de gallo, dollops of sour cream, and handfuls of cheese that adorn signature burritos, tacos, and quesadillas alike. Or there's always the fish tacos. Pair these San Diego staples with a sweet and salty margarita while staying at one of the cheap hotels in San Diego, and you’ll be living like the locals in no time.
Sample more refined culinary offerings across the bay in Coronado, or to the north in La Jolla. Think sumptuous Champagne brunches, extensive wine lists showcasing California's best labels, and platters of plump shellfish artfully arranged over ice. If a day of fun in the sun has you hungry for something more filling, the Little Italy neighborhood is dotted with Italian restaurants spanning family-owned pizza and sub joints to traditional trattorias serving heaps of home-style pasta. Embrace the challenge to sample every facet of San Diego cuisine—after all, you have three meals a day worth of options.
Did you bring your passport? San Diego's southern reaches butt up against the U.S.-Mexico border, across from which is the sprawling city of Tijuana. Most day-trippers stick to the tourist-oriented bars and street markets close to the border zone, and there's no shortage of vendors offering goods from "gold" necklaces to woven blankets to handcrafted leather purses. You might also find some time for tacos, tequila, and a portrait with one of TJ's famous zebras (Play along—they know, you know, we all know it's a painted donkey). Stick to California, and potential day trip destinations include the small coastal city of Carlsbad, famous for its flower fields. A riot of multi-hued blooms arranged in painterly rows, the scene harmonizes beautifully with your vacation's endless summer theme. If you can stand a temperature drop for a day, drive up into the Cuyamaca Mountains to the picturesque town of Julian. Its gold-mining heritage (all of it captured in the walls of pioneer-era structures) is unusual for SoCal, as are the apple orchards that thrive in the milder mountain climate. Find time for such a day trip and be reminded that smaller towns and little-known destinations can be just as memorable as major cities. Your photos of those flower fields will be as vibrant as any you snapped at the beach, and the street tacos you inhaled in TJ as tasty as a meal in the finest waterfront restaurant.
Ready for a San Diego Sojourn?
Are you ready to let the cool surf of the Pacific Ocean wash away your cares while the warm sun toasts your toes and freckles your face? Check out our extensive listings of San Diego lodging. Pack your suitcase with sunscreen, swimsuits, and flip flops, and it will soon sink in that you're getting ready for a summer vacation no matter the month of the year.
How to Get to Catalina Island from San Diego
Getting to Catalina Island from San Diego is a snap and the most popular way to reach the island is by boat.
- Take the 5 North or hop on the Amtrak Coaster from San Diego Station to one of the three Ferry Ports to Catalina Island.
- Ferry ports to Catalina Island Include:
- Dana Point (closer to San Diego)
- Long Beach (shorter ferry ride to Catalina)
- San Pedro is reachable by freeway from Orange County and Los Angeles
- An Island Express helicopter charter is a great option for the truly adventurous
- You can usually get from San Diego to Catalina Island in about 15 minutes
If you want to experience a different side of Southern California lifestyle on your San Diego vacation, consider a getaway to Catalina Island. Perhaps the most popular of the California Channel Islands, Catalina offers snorkeling in the crystal Pacific, hiking to some of the best vistas in the state, dining on fresh seafood, and even buffalo-watching.